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December 16, 2023

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Historical flat decorated with simplicity and artistic charm

The beauty of this historical apartment lies in the balance of relaxed simplicity and a sense of individuality.

Frenchman Thibaut Lefebvre has been living in Shanghai for more than seven years. He works in product development in the cosmetic industry, mostly on packaging and beauty accessories for a French group.

The apartment is the third place in the city he has called home. His previous apartment was in a pleasant six-story building on Fuxing Road W. within his favorite neighborhood.

“But after two years of living, we decided we needed a terrace,” Lefebvre said. “We started looking again for something quiet, spacious enough to have an office at home, and a central location.”

The initial target was the leafy Xuhui District but the home they found in Jing’an District turned out to be a perfect option.

“As soon as I entered this apartment, I was overwhelmed by how cozy it was. The house smells of wood when the sun hits. There is a comforting smell, and there are four different levels all connected by a central staircase.”

Lefebvre and Luis Gelves moved into their new home in October 2020. The apartment is hidden inside the Yugucun lane house complex, built in 1927, on the beautiful Yuyuan Road.

“The road is full of history itself and you are five-minute walk away from Jing’an Temple. We can basically walk to most of the nice areas of Shanghai within 30 minutes. I have discovered new areas I didn’t know before,” Lefebvre said.

The apartment was in a perfect condition when the duo moved in. They simply reorganized the space, made some minor changes to chandeliers and small furnishings, and added their personal collection of decorations and art. The historical apartment was transformed into an artful union that is warm and inviting.

“We wanted to keep the decoration in the spirit of the house: a nice vintage feel with a modern touch,” Lefebvre said.

Since most of the larger furniture pieces were already there, they had to take them into consideration and tried to keep the style as harmonious as possible.

“The centerpiece is the staircase, which has Art Deco details and leads to all rooms in the house. The old doors and window frames are gorgeous as well.”

The duo wanted their home to reflect who they are, their time in Shanghai and their travels around the globe. A well curated collection of arts and crafts is displayed in every possible corner of the house.

The large living room with a balcony overlooking the lane is bathed in natural light — an ideal spot for reading, relaxing and socializing with friends. Lefebvre injected his own sense of individuality by introducing several pieces he is passionate about.

They love to add new treasures to a wall, place a new discovery on a shelf or display a bold carpet, so the interior is always evolving.

The centerpiece of the living room is a tapestry with a tiger motif created by a Belgian artist. Lefebvre purchased it in the south of France.

Antique bronze doorknobs discovered during a trip to Lijiang, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, are creatively framed and placed above the dining area, adding an ethnic touch to the space.

“I love looking out for old pieces and spend my leisure time in antique markets. My recent purchases are two small lanterns from the hutongs (alleyways) of Beijing,” Lefebvre said.

“I’m also very fond of my 1932 Shanghai map with street names in French and English in our office room. It took me months to find that map, and I eventually negotiated it on a bench with a very nice old man who seemed to have great knowledge about old maps.”

There are also a few pieces of art in the home that are truly meaningful to the couple, who love seeing them every day.

“We have acquired pieces from artists we love. There are two watercolor paintings from amazing Beijing-based artist Lu Yanxiang, reflecting our taste in art and our personalities. After this first venture into art purchases, we then fell in love with other works, purchased at the M50 or other places, such as prints and ceramic vases,” Lefebvre said.

“We prefer simple things, and we try to keep a cozy environment where it feels good to be. Most of the visitors fall in love with the place thanks to the style of the house itself, with its original wooden floor, brick walls, Art Deco details on doors and stairs, and the care in details we put in,” he said.

“It’s not meant to be eye-catching but a warm, happy place to be. We know one day we will have to leave so we take it as a nice experience, a privileged moment in time. When we think of it in the future, we’ll have fond memories of it. Our favorite place in Shanghai, by far.”


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